When I woke up yesterday, there was a bike race going on; not the one happening in Sun Valley but a criterium running literally around my house. This was just another in a long string of events that seem to be wafting me back towards cycling- and so far the hardest to ignore. I rolled out of bed, made a french press and some oatmeal, and then sat on the curb watching the cat5 masters race to the death. Shit, was what I thought to myself. Shit.
I walked down to registration barefoot, found old friends and familiar forms, and signed up. Cat4. One-day license. I’ve only been pedaling semi-regularly for about two weeks, but how could I ignore a race happening around my house? It was like the universe was dangling it in front of my nose, and I ended up thinking about my teammate Erin Huck, who once said that for her racing off the couch is far better than racing overtrained. I could believe it even if I’d never experienced it, yet in the nervy hours before warmup I wondered how far into the couch I’d actually sunk. The logical indicator, obviously, was safety pins.
See, there was a time in my life when I was in possession of an absurd number of safety pins. When I needed ten I usually grabbed twelve, and the spares slowly filled the ashtrays of my car, my toiletry bags, my purses- until at any moment I was prepared to pin a number on a jersey. Like if a race struck as I was brushing my teeth, for example.
I hadn’t been expecting to pin any numbers any time soon, but it was still a strange shock yesterday, when I suddenly needed them, to find that the safety pins had gone. None in my purses, none in my toiletry bags- even the ashtrays of my car were deserted, though one held a lonely pair of brake pads. Finding those felt like discovering some sort of artifact, which was when I realized it’s been kind of a long time since I entered a bike race.
As I pedaled around through my old warmup, I continued to wonder somewhat idly if I’d gotten completely out of shape. I felt fine, but along with the safety pins my computers were ancient history- I had no idea what the numbers indicating my watts, heart rate, or even my speed were doing. Maybe I was feeling fine because I was pedaling two miles an hour. Maybe my watts were that of a small child. The safety pins were gone, after all. It was possible that I was no longer on, but rather in or even under the couch.
Luckily I drag raced a truck as the official conclusion to my warmup. The driver stayed next to me a little longer than drivers usually do, and I glanced over and smiled, in case they were getting ideas about running me off the road. Peace, driver- I mean you no harm. We went like that together for a while more until she rolled down her window. I flinched, expecting the customary barrage of criticism and/or a beer can to the face, but she just yelled, “You’re doing 25!!” and gave me a grinning thumbs up. I laughed and gave a thumbs up back- who needs computers?? Safety pins? Pah.
Thus I rolled up to the start with a stupid, shit eating grin on my face. It didn’t go away until long after the finish. I rode really hard and it felt amazing. Just amazing. Erin was so right, and now I’m wondering just how far I can take this undertraining thing.